The University and College Union (UCU) said today (25 Nov) that strong shows of support for strikes at 60 UK universities sent a clear message that staff would not settle for pay cuts, increased pension costs or deteriorating conditions.

The union said it welcomed a call from shadow education secretary Angela Rayner for universities to put students first and bring a reasonable offer back to the negotiating table.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, commenting ahead of the University and College Union (UCU) strikes which start on Monday 25th November, said:

“Fair pay, secure contracts, reasonable workloads and decent, affordable pensions should come as standard for all those working in education, including in our universities.

“Thousands are on strike today because that simply isn’t the case in the increasingly marketised system that the Tories have created. Labour will end the failed free market experiment in education and instead put staff and students first.

“It is time for the employers to put their students first and avoid any further disruption by bringing a reasonable offer back to the negotiating table.”

UCU has warned that if universities fail to make improved offers then further waves of strike action could follow in the new year, with even more staff taking part. 

UCU is currently consulting with branches at other universities about being balloted again to join further action and revealed today that 3,500 people have joined the union in the three weeks since it announced this round of eight strike days.

Angela Rayner will be among the speakers at a rally in Manchester later today as strikers assemble at St Peter’s Chaplaincy on Oxford Road from 11:15am. There are also rallies in Bristol and Newcastle with others planned for later in the week in cities across the UK. All the latest news from the picket lines and rallies is available on UCU’s strike page.

Last month, UCU members backed strike action in two disputes, one on changes to the USS pension scheme and one on universities’ failure to make improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads. Overall, 79% of UCU members who voted backed strike action in the ballot over changes to pensions. In the ballot on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads, 74% of members polled backed strike action. 

As well as eight strike days from 25 November to Wednesday 4 December, UCU members will begin “action short of a strike”. This involves things like working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues and refusing to reschedule lectures lost to strike action.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said:

‘We have been receiving news of solid support for the strikes across the UK. That support sends a clear message to universities that staff will not settle for pay cuts, increased pension costs or deteriorating conditions.

‘We agree with Angela Rayner that universities should be putting students first and coming back to us with a better offer to try and avoid further disruption. We have seen thousands of people join the union in the few weeks since we announced this round of strikes and, if universities continue to refuse to negotiate seriously, more action with even more people involved could be on the cards.’

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